Postcard from Naples, Italy: No rest for the dogs

Always drawn to stone effigies of the elite who were wealthy enough to merit entombment in churches. These portraits carry so much more meaning than mere names and dates carved into headstones. They serve as permanent records of earlier fashions, both sartorial and hair. Falcons for the master; perhaps stitchery for the mistress.

Often the interred rest their heads as peacefully as possible on their extra-firm pillows, but what of the poor pooches, condemned to bear the weight of their masters’ feet for eternity? Guesses or knowledgeable responses about the reason for the dog footrests welcomed.

 

Postcard from Naples, Italy: The church of Andy Warhol

In 1984, gallerist Alexandre Iolas commissioned Warhol to create a group of works based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper (1495-97) for an exhibition space in the Palazzo Stelline in Milan, located across the street from Santa Maria delle Grazie, home of Leonardo’s masterpiece. Warhol exceeded the demands of the commission and produced nearly 100 variations on the theme. Indeed, the extent of the series indicates an almost obsessive investment in the subject matter, which takes on an added significance in light of the revelation of the secret religious life revealed after Warhol’s death, which occurred only a month after the opening of the Milan exhibition in January 1987.

“Andy Warhol: The Last Supper” from Past Exhibitions of the Guggenheim

Encountered an Andy Warhol exhibition our first weekend wandering around Naples. The setting seemed so unlikely. The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore alla Pietrasanta, constructed atop the remains of a Temple of Diana by a Bishop of Naples in the year 525 and purportedly the first sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Of course, that church was remodeled numerous times, and I really am unsure how it became an art venue. But Pop art is occupying the sanctuary through February 23: “The True Essence of Warhol.” The exhibition is presented by the Arthemisia Association.

The pairing of pop culture and religious altars is unusual. A neon “Warhol e il Brand” crosses in front of a painting of the Virgin Mary. “Warhol e l’Italia” glowing in front of a crucifixion. Mick and Keith staring down from niches?

Church is not what my memory associates with Andy Warhol (1928-1987). My memories place him more in the throbbing celebrity melee of the Studio 54 disco scene. Or hanging with the Rolling Stones.

His art was sensational via his calculated and stated commercial associations.

Mr. Warhol’s keenest talents were for attracting publicity, for uttering the unforgettable quote and for finding the single visual image that would most shock and endure. That his art could attract and maintain the public interest made him among the most influential and widely emulated artists of his time.

“Andy Warhol, Pop Artist, Dies,” Douglas C. McGill, The New York Times, February 23, 1987

We played around in this church of Warhol….

 

But it was not until several months later I learned that Andy Warhol’s Catholic upbringing was lurking close to the surface of his wild partying veneer. He was frequently spotted on Sundays in a pew of St. Vincent Ferrer on the Upper East Side of New York.

People are complicated.

I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph, and name. Well, actually, I’d like it to say “figment.”

Andy Warhol

It does not. His headstone in Saint John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh bears standard name and dates, and he rests amongst his Warhola relatives. His memorial mass was held in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Postcard from Naples, Italy: Seconds on that seafood platter, per piacere

“Leftovers” from a crudo platter at Pesheria Mattiucci

Maybe that photo is not appetizing, but it does represent how incredibly good and fresh the platters of raw fish served at Pesheria Mattiucci are. The freshness is key for the fishmongers who run this small place that still resembles more a fish market than a dining spot. Each type of fish on the platter is paired thoughtfully with an appropriate fruit, light sauce, herb or fresh flower to compliment its individual delicate flavor.

By all appearances, the Pesheria is not our kind of place. Only a handful of no-backed stools awkwardly perched at metal counters with no leg room. And no red wine (The Neapolitans worked hard to reform us on the importance of pairing their dry white wines with raw seafood, and we must admit they are right.). But despite the humble surroundings, the seafood was so amazing we went twice. Oh, and the fishmongers can cook fish perfectly, too.

The other “best raw seafood” spot for us during our stay was in the Vomero neighborhood. Panamar was only marginally more formal, part of the trend of chefs who want to focus on food – tablecloths and tableside service be damned. Sandwiches are their specialty, and they begin with large firm  buns.

Our favorites? The fuoritonno with cubes of red tuna, smoked burratina cheese, sundried tomatoes, smoked eggplant cream and fried arugula; and the mezzosalmone with cubes of salmon, buffalo mozzarella, grilled zucchini and a sauce of honey and red peppers.

Since those first two restaurants were seafood-centric, I pulled out most of the other seafood photos from our stay in Naples. Several of these places will be mentioned again later.

We had gotten hooked on fried anchovies in Spain, and found them abundant in Campania as well where they are called alicci fritte. With a squeeze of fresh lemon, pretty addictive. The pasta most associated with Naples is paccheri, sort of like giant rigatoni.

Perched at hightop tables on a fairly busy street, we loved the casual neighborhood vibe of Re Lazzarone downtown near the Archaeology Museum. Anonymous Trattoria Gourmet is tucked away on a lower street downtown in a location that helps keep it anonymous from tourists. The inside is spartan but packed with locals.

Godot, up in the Vomero neighborhood, is pricier and still well off the tourist track. Loved the gnocchi with peas and calamari. And the surprising find at the end of the trip was on the fringe of Vomero, Trattoria Scugnizzi. An inexpensive place popular with neighbors that seems way off the visitor radar. The only photo included with this post is a sample of the chef’s daily seafood pasta special, a sample because he was disappointed we already had over-ordered.

The others lumped into this seafood post were in more high-profile locations, but they still managed to keep some loyal Neapolitan diners: Anticchi Sapori; Ristorante L’Ostricaio; and Stritt Stritt.

More food later.